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Getting In The Way

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The purpose of the sermon is to cause people to ask themselves whether they are truly “ambassadors” of Christ or not and to give them some instruction as to what they might do to embrace that role and function productively in it.

The Ministry of Reconciliation – 2 Corinthians 5

11 Since, then, we know [KI1] what it is to fear the Lord, we try [KI2] to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.  12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart[KI3] .  13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly [KI4] point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new [KI5] creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [1]

Ambassador —  In the Old Testament the Hebrew word tsir, meaning “one who goes on an errand,” is rendered thus (Josh. 9:4; Prov. 13:17; Isa. 18:2; Jer. 49:14; Obad. 1:1). This is also the rendering of melits, meaning “an interpreter,” in 2 Chr. 32:31; and of malak, a “messenger,” in 2 Chr. 35:21; Isa. 30:4; 33:7; Ezek. 17:15. This is the name used by the apostle as designating those who are appointed by God to declare his will (2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20).

   The Hebrews on various occasions and for various purposes had recourse to the services of ambassadors, e.g., to contract alliances (Josh. 9:4), to solicit favours (Num. 20:14), to remonstrate when wrong was done (Judg. 11:12), to condole with a young king on the death of his father (2 Sam. 10:2), and to congratulate a king on his accession to the throne (1 Kings 5:1).

   To do injury to an ambassador was to insult the king who sent him (2 Sam. 10:5). [2]

Reconcilation —  a change from enmity to friendship. It is mutual, i.e., it is a change wrought in both parties who have been at enmity.

   (1.) In Col. 1:21, 22, the word there used refers to a change wrought in the personal character of the sinner who ceases to be an enemy to God by wicked works, and yields up to him his full confidence and love. In 2 Cor. 5:20 the apostle beseeches the Corinthians to be “reconciled to God”, i.e., to lay aside their enmity.

   (2.) Rom. 5:10 refers not to any change in our disposition toward God, but to God himself, as the party reconciled. Romans 5:11 teaches the same truth. From God we have received “the reconciliation” (R.V.), i.e., he has conferred on us the token of his friendship. So also 2 Cor. 5:18, 19 speaks of a reconciliation originating with God, and consisting in the removal of his merited wrath. In Eph. 2:16 it is clear that the apostle does not refer to the winning back of the sinner in love and loyalty to God, but to the restoration of God’s forfeited favour. This is effected by his justice being satisfied, so that he can, in consistency with his own nature, be favourable toward sinners. Justice demands the punishment of sinners. The death of Christ satisfies justice, and so reconciles God to us. This reconciliation makes God our friend, and enables him to pardon and save us. (See ATONEMENT.) [3]

RECONCILIATION. There are four important NT passages which treat of the work of Christ under the figure of reconciliation, namely, Rom. 5:10f.; 2 Cor. 5:18ff.; Eph. 2:11ff.; Col. 1:19ff. The important Gk. words are the noun katallageµ and the verbs katallassoµ and apokatallassoµ. Reconciliation properly applies not to good relations in general but to the doing away of an enmity, the bridging over of a quarrel. It implies that the parties being reconciled were formerly hostile to one another. The Bible tells us bluntly that sinners are ‘enemies’ of God (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21; Jas. 4:4). We should not minimize the seriousness of these and similar passages. An enemy is not someone who comes a little short of being a friend. He is in the other camp. He is altogether opposed. The NT pictures God in vigorous opposition to everything that is evil.

Now the way to overcome enmity is to take away the cause of the quarrel. We may apologize for the hasty word, we may pay the money that is due, we may make what reparation or restitution is appropriate. But in every case the way to reconciliation lies through an effective grappling with the root cause of the enmity. Christ died to put away our sin. In this way he dealt with the enmity between man and God. He put it out of the way. He made the way wide open for men to come back to God. It is this which is described by the term ‘reconciliation’.

It is interesting to notice that no NT passage speaks of Christ as reconciling God to man. Always the stress is on man’s being reconciled. This in the nature of the case is very important. It is man’s sin which has caused the enmity. It is man’s sin that has had to be dealt with. Man may very well be called on in the words of 2 Cor. 5:20 to be ‘reconciled to God’. Some students go on from this to suggest that Christ’s reconciling activities are concerned only with man. But it is difficult to harmonize this with the general NT position. That which set up the barrier was the demand of God’s holiness for uprightness in man. Man, left to himself, is content to let bygones be bygones. He is not particularly worried by his sin. Certainly he feels no hostility to God on account of his sin. The barrier arises because God demands holiness in man. Therefore when the process of reconciliation has been effected it is impossible to say it is completely man-ward, and not God-ward in any sense. There must be a change from God’s side if all that is involved in such expressions as ‘the wrath of God’ is no longer exercised towards man.

This does not mean a change in God’s love. The Bible is very clear that God’s love to man never varies no matter what man may do. Indeed, the whole atoning work of Christ stems from God’s great love. It was ‘while we were yet sinners’ that ‘Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8). This truth must be zealously guarded. But at the same time we must not allow ourselves to slip into the position of maintaining that reconciliation is a purely subjective process. Reconciliation in some sense was effected outside man before anything happened within man. Paul can speak of Christ ‘through whom we have now received our reconciliation’ (Rom. 5:11). A reconciliation that can be ‘received’ must be proffered (and thus in some sense accomplished) before men received it. In other words, we must think of reconciliation as having effects both God-ward and man-ward.

Bibliography. Arndt; J. Denney, The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation, 1917; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross3, 1965; H.-G. Link, C. Brown, H. Vorländer, NIDNTT 3, pp. 145-176; F. Büchsel, TDNT 1, pp. 254-258.     l.m.[4]

A person who acts in their own interests can never be a good ambassador.  We must learn to set our own agenda aside.  Jonah was an example of the that – he ran from God and even when God reigned him in he had an agenda of retribution against the world.  I think that there are Christian folk who want to see this world get what is coming due them.  Although they might never vocalize it they like the idea that God will one day “pay back” for the wrongs that people have done them.  People who operate in this spirit can never help others find Christ.

Be extremely careful not to lay extra-biblical requirements on people.

Refuse to adopt adversarial stances or postures with people.  There are a lot of people who are prepared for a fight.

As far as I know we are never urged to become enemies of people who do not know Christ.  We are never to enter into an adversarial posture with them.  They may stand against us but we are never to stand against them.


[1]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[2]Easton, M. G., M. A. D. D., Easton’s Bible Dictionary, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1996.

[3]Easton, M. G., M. A. D. D., Easton’s Bible Dictionary, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1996.

[4]The New Bible Dictionary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1962.

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 [KI1] We cannot communicate what we have little or no personal knowledge of.  Runner’s pride.  I struggle to maintain a good attitude when I am being sold a pair of runners by someone who has never seriously “run”.  There is a body of knowledge that comes a person’s way just by living and breathing.  I suppose that I could have been pre-taught everything that 22 years of running has brought to me but pre-knowledge is never a precious thing – it is that which is learned through personal experience – good and bad that is a badge of honor.

 [KI2] When we learn these things and they become uniquely our own the most natural thing in the world is to want to communicate them to other people.  Everything in my life that I have been a part of and experienced personal benefit from is something that I love to involve others in. (we try to persuade men)

 [KI3] This is the way that God sees a person.  Repeatedly throughout the pages of scripture we are reminded that we are not to judge people because only God knows the thoughts and intents of a man’s heart.  Our eyes deceive us by times.

 [KI4] Judging alone by what we are able to see with our physical senses.

 [KI5] The immediate difference in a person’s life is real and professed but the reality of it is confirmed and becomes increasingly more evident with the passing of time.

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